Journal: News & Comment

Wednesday, March 13, 2002
# 9:37:00 AM:

The best hotels in southwestern B.C. and the U.S. Pacific Northwest

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Traveling in British Columbia, Washington, or Oregon soon? I've been living and vacationing around here for some time, and here are a few of my hotel recommendations. Some are relatively inexpensive, but others aren't cheap at all:

  • Victoria - Bedford Regency Hotel, Harbour Towers, or Best Western Inner Harbour—as well as the Hotel Grand Pacific, added to this list in mid-2003

    The Bedford Regency is easy to miss, although it's right on Government Street with all the tourist shops, above Murchie's Coffees & Teas, which is always busy. My wife and I discovered it in 1997. It features stupendous down comforters on the beds, fireplaces (with real chopped firewood!) in the rooms, and deep spa-jetted soaker tubs with French doors. Not a place to take your kids (so we haven't been there since ours were born -- but once they're old enough to stay overnight with the grandparents...), it is luxuriously relaxing, and walking distance to everything in Victoria.

    Harbour Towers is large, and was recently renovated. We stayed there just before New Year's 2001/2002. It features good prices, some rooms with kitchenettes, a top-floor spa, an Internet studio in the basement, an indoor swimming pool and fitness room, and great views. Family friendly (there's even a playroom near the pool), and close to downtown attractions.

    The Best Western I mean (Victoria has more than one) is right across the street from Harbour Towers. It's a little smaller and less fully featured than its neighbour (no restaurant, the pool is outdoors), but rooms all have kitchenettes, and it's reasonably priced.

  • Vancouver (my home town) - Sylvia Hotel, Wedgewood Hotel, Bayshore Resort, Wall Centre, or Le Soleil Hotel

    The Sylvia is one of the oldest hotels in the city (though there is a newer tower addition now). It's quaint, not too expensive (at least for this city), and has a fabulous location on English Bay near Stanley Park, looking southwest at some of the greatest sunsets around.

    Right downtown, around the corner from the Robson Street shopping district, is the Wedgewood. It reminds me of Victoria's Bedford Regency (above) in that it's hidden in plain sight. The Bacchus restaurant in the lobby is renowned, the accommodations are European in style, and the rooms look out over the garden-style terraces of the Arthur Erickson-designed courthouse complex -- a pleasant alternative to the towers, streets, and rooftops visible from most other downtown hotels (even the five-star ones).

    Of Vancouver's big guns (and we have more top-flight hotels than any other city on North America), the Bayshore is my favourite because instead of being packed in with the other downtown buildings, it's on the Coal Harbour waterfront near Stanley Park (almost directly north, on the opposite site of the downtown isthmus, from the Sylvia), with some of the best views you could imagine of mountains, sailboats, trees, and sky. Plus all the usual resort hotel amenities, a conference centre, boat moorage, and a waterside walkway. The Wall Centre is a close second because it sits on the highest point of land downtown, is sleek and modern, and has floor-to-ceiling windows with great views on any side of the building, especially from higher floors.

    I've never stayed at the Le Soleil Hotel, but even though it is packed in with all those downtown towers, I sure want to.

  • Whistler - Pan Pacific Lodge or Chauteau Whistler Resort

    Everything in Whistler is expensive, so be prepared. The Pan Pacific Whistler feels smaller than it is, and the rooms are modern yet homey, with little balconies and strange alpine angles to the walls. Right in the heart of the Village too.

    The Chateau Whistler is simply the most luxurious-feeling hotel I've ever been in outside a big city. Especially in the hallways, which are dark, gabled, and opulent in a European ski resort kind of way. Prices are high, but you feel like you're getting your money's worth. (Luckily, my one stay there was paid for by a client.)

  • La Conner and Whidbey Island, Washington - La Conner Channel Lodge and Coachman Inn

    La Conner is a cute antiques-focused tourist town midway between Vancouver and Seattle. The Lodge is right on the waterfront. It's lovely. I recommend reading a book next to the huge stone fireplace in the lobby.

    My wife and I found the Coachman Inn in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island (not far from La Conner) one rainy night in 1995 when we had been planning to drive to Oregon, but got turned off by the lousy weather and decided to stay somewhere closer instead. Neither the hotel nor the town (the commercial hub of Whidbey Island) is anything spectacular, but it's a fun little getaway that still has a 24-hour supermarket and decent Mexican restaurant nearby. Plus free breakfast.

  • Seattle - Doubletree Inn Bellevue Center, Silver Cloud Inn Mukilteo, or Mayflower Park Hotel

    The first two are outside Seattle proper, but close enough by car. The Doubletree is one of two by that name in Bellevue, just east of the city across Lake Washington -- the one I prefer is the smaller, motel-style hotel. It's been a favourite for over a decade, since I used to travel to Seattle with my fellow tech-geek roommates in search of CD-ROMs. It's also good now for a family with kids. The outdoor pool and hot tub are fun, and you get free cookies with your stay.

    Like the La Conner Lodge, the Silver Cloud at Mukilteo Landing (a short haul north of the city, on the Puget Sound waterfront) is built on pilings and is quite new. Very nautical, free continental breakfast downstairs, and it's next to our favourite Ivar's seafood restaurant, as well as the Whidbey Island ferry terminal.

    Attached to the interconnected mall network smack in the middle of downtown Seattle, the Mayflower Park tower is recently renovated but really quite old: it was built in 1927. It now combines its charming age and excellent location with modern luxury amenities. We had a great time there with our daughter when she was just a year old.

  • Florence, Oregon - Riverhouse Motel

    Florence has a delightful Old Town right on the riverfront, and though the Riverhouse Motel looks like nothing special, the rooms on the riverside offer fantastic southern exposure balconies right on the river bank. Traffic noise from the nearby metal bridge can be distracting, but the view is beautiful and calming. I recommend it as a stop on the Oregon coast. Walk into Old Town proper and have some steamed crab fresh from the fishing boats that pull in.


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